September 2005 - Dutch people and culture

A new Dutch word that Trent and I have learned along the way is gezellig (said: heh-ZEL-ick). As outlined perfectly in an Amsterdam’s visitor’s magazine for non-Dutch people:

“It describes the Dutch as loving gezellig things and places. A gezellig environment is on that allows good times to happen. It’s like a vibe. A gezellig place is cozy and inviting and full of gezellig things that make is so gezellig. A two hour leisurely meal with friends is so gezellig. Eating a Big Mac on your lap is not. While everyone likes a good vibe and coziness- the Dutch gear their entire lives towards it.”

This explains all the coffee breaks the Dutch people take…or the long dinners! If you are in Holland and are going out to dinner with some Dutch people, set aside at least 3+ hours and just take your time and enjoy it. Trent and I are amazed every time we go into the Maastricht city centre and see how many people are out enjoying the sites and sounds, eating/drinking/visiting at a café. As well, people stay out all night to party (all ages- in fact, a few weeks ago we went out and saw a bar full of 60+ year olds partying at 1AM—this is something you don’t see in Canada often!).


Of course, everything in life isn’t smooth sailing. And, we have to report some of those small hiccups and bumps along the road. The term gezellig (see above) can also be frustrating! We have found way more frustrations in trying to get things done in a timely manner on a daily basis than we are used to. So, when you go to a store or the bank, be ready to wait in line much longer than in North America. Nevertheless, when you finally get helped, the store workers really take their time with you and make you feel important. They really don’t care how long the line is. One will experience a similar situation when calling a help phone- be ready to be put on hold for 15-20min. When you finally get through, however, you will usually be greeted by a really personal and pleasant receptionist (if they speak English!).

All-in-all, we are figuring things out here in Holland and learning what the norm is. As you can see, there are things we really enjoy, while there are other things that take getting used to. But, I really think it is an invaluable experience to live outside your comfort zone and experience a new culture – I believe it makes a person that much more open-minded. I often hear people complain about their own surroundings or many people wonder why we have come to live here in Holland because they say they don’t like it, but I always find that these same people have rarely explored any other place and therefore have no comparison to say what is good or bad. So, I often urge these people to travel and experience other cultures before complaining about where they are at or, in contrast, criticizing another nation.
























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